Tuesday, June 09, 2009

KALA KORNER - Sunday Times, 24 September 2004.


Plus - Kala Korner
'With the dawn' - yet another absorbing collection

By Dee Cee

Seated on a couch with a 'bastama' by the side, "elder statesman" Nihal Fernando, in his usual observant way, was watching everyone admiring and appreciating the work of Studio Times. After enjoying the exhibits, everyone walked up to him to say "wonderful".

A man of few words, Nihal always prefers to listen to what others say. When he does talk, his words are full of meaning. He is a keen observer, his photographs being the best testimony.

Studio Times exhibitions have always been a rare treat.

The quality has been of the highest standard, the subject matter most topical and meaningful.

This time was no different. 'With the dawn' was the theme but it was not restricted to the pictures that the book by the same title released early this year carried.

Nihal's daughter Anu and the others had been travelling around capturing interesting images of people, places and nature. The collection included a glimpse of the aftermath of the tsunami as well.

Just as much as the pictures were exquisite, the write-ups were equally interesting and educative.

Some of the old quotes were fascinating. As for the pictures, one could hardly decide which one was better than the other. I particularly liked the water lily, the 'bo' leaves and the 'na' leaves.

It was nice to see virtually everyone who had been invited turning up for the opening of the exhibition at the Harold Peiris Gallery. It turned out to be a gathering of old friends. As one time colleague Manik de Silva remarked, it was the best crowd seen at an opening of an exhibition.

Seeing old faces, I remembered the days in the late 1960s when, after closing page one of the early edition of the Observer, a few of us including Manik, used to go for string hoppers and 'pol sambol' to the YMBA canteen in Fort.

We used to meet Nihal and Pat (Decker) there and after breakfast, we invariably dropped in at Studio Times (then in the Times building) to have a chat. They were early birds clocking in by 7 in the morning and starting work.

That evening Nihal looked happy and contented. While his own work still stands out for its outstanding quality, he should be satisfied he has built up an equally capable team.

As Charlie Gunawardena describes in his 'Encyclopaedia of Sri Lanka', Nihal is the "leading photographer whose feeling for the natural beauty of the island has accompanied a passionate concern for its environmental integrity."

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